The Importance Of Proper Installation: Is Your Heat Pump Delivering Maximum Efficiency?

Does it matter if your heat pump is not installed perfectly? According to a recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), you could be losing as much as 30 percent of your energy efficiency and not seeing the best possible reduction in your heating bills if your heat pump is improperly installed.

So if you purchase a heat pump that is guaranteed to deliver a certain level of energy efficiency, you may not be achieving that -- through no fault of the appliance.

Installation Problems

The three-year NIST survey measured how well heat pumps performed when they were typically installed in both a house with a basement and one with a concrete slab foundation. Some of the most common findings that caused a loss of efficiency included:

  • Leaky ducts
  • Oversized systems
  • Incorrect refrigerant charge
  • Restricted air flow

The most problematic of these? Leaky air ducts, which were particularly troublesome when installed in attic space that isn't heated or cooled. Duct leakage also increased relative humidity in the homes, so people were not as comfortable.

How To Avoid Issues

A quality, professional installation can start with properly designed systems that take into account the size of the space to be heated and cooled. An HVAC contractor can use industry standards for measuring tolerances in a system to ensure a correct design.

It's also beneficial for your HVAC contractor to examine any existing duct work and make sure it is sealed. As well, when the new installation is complete, contractors should test the system to make sure that leaks are minimized.

Cumulative Effects

As a homeowner, you are of course interested in making sure you save money on your energy bills while ensuring your appliances run smoothly. But think about the issue: If half of all heat pumps installed in the U.S. have issues that cause a loss of efficiency, there is a lot of energy being wasted in residential heating and cooling systems.

Heat pumps already save the homeowner between 30 and 40 percent on heating bills compared to a traditional furnace. Increasing this efficiency, even if only a few percentage points, could be saving a great deal of energy used in the U.S. each day.

Talk to your HVAC contractor about steps they take to ensure proper system design and installation. If you already have a heat pump, ask to have the duct work checked as part of your regular maintenance. You could save more in energy costs and have a more efficient home.